How do Widening Participation departments in England put policy that targets by ethnicity into practice?
Dr Suki Ali (Department of Sociology)
‘Race’; Ethnicity; Postcolonial Feminism; Widening Participation; Education; Black British-ness; Post-1945 Caribbean Migration
Since the nineties, we have seen a proliferation of Widening Participation (WP) related projects and networks such as Aim Higher and more recently the National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP), which ‘has resulted in a strong and vibrant WP community of practitioners and researchers’ (Thompson 2017). The growth of a Widening Participation sector has been matched with an increased intervention into the field by policy makers, outlining what the outcomes of WP activity should be. An outcome I am particularly concerned with is closing access and attainment gaps between ‘particular ethnicities’ (Office for Students 2018).
Using a combination of observation and interview methods to research the Widening Participation field and Critical Discourse Analysis to research Access and Participation plans, my research will investigate how widening participation practitioners put HE policy that requires targeting by ethnicity into practice. Whilst funding criteria and constraints means that as WP practitioners, we are consistently concerned about research that tracks attainment gaps (Office for Students 2018). I believe we need to problematise the conceptualisation of the socio-economic groups we are mandated to target and think more rigorously about the effects of programmes that are intended to target particular social groups.